Monthly Archives: February 2008

What’s been going on?

As indicated in the last post, there’s been some excitement here. Last Saturday, the day before I was to drive to Omaha to pick up Special Guest Star Patrick Weekes,* I powered down the driver’s side window of my 2005 Scion tc and it refused to go back up. In -2 degree weather. This was Not a Good Thing.

I managed to get an emergency loaner from the university car pool — and by emergency, I mean I called university security and they called maintenance and somehow, one of the wonderful business office staff met me at school at 6:30 Saturday night, despite the fact that her mother-in-law had just passed away.

I’m not going to retell the story of driving into the ditch off Hwy 20 in the cold, blowing snow of Sunday night — Patrick’s version is superlative. I will note, however, that the car I drove into the ditch was a university sedan (and I’m not tenured yet) and afterwards, I realized that, despite my panic, I steered into the skid. It didn’t make any difference in the outcome, but when I’m stuck in the snow with a visiting writer-and-friend who is recording everything that transpires in real-time by text messaging** a mutual friend in Austin, TX, I look for the bright side.

After we were pulled out of the snow by the capable and clean-mouthed Galen, I insisted on driving the rest of the way to Storm lake, despite the facts that I was really pretty shaken up by the ditch adventure and, between my crappy night vision and the blowing snow, I really couldn’t see the road more than 5 feet in front of us. Patrick offered to drive several times, but by then, finishing the journey I’d started almost 9 hours earlier had become A Matter of Pride. I was channeling Gene T. Schaechterle and was this close to laughing slowly. Siblings and other relatives will know what I mean. Had Patrick known, he’d have gotten out and hitchhiked — I was significantly more unbalanced than a highway-cruising serial killer by that point.

Patrick’s standing-room-only reading and his visit to my creative writing class were great. Better than great: funny and thought-provoking and memorable. But I’m not here to laud the multi-faceted and fabulous Patrick, I’m here to detail my car-related abuse of him.

The university loan of a sedan really was an emergency action — they needed the car back first thing Monday morning. So after picking up Patrick at the motel and teaching my 9 a.m. class, I force-marched him to my house to get my car (the one with the window sill stuck in the down position) through something like a -17 wind chill, with WIND being the operative word. Now, it should be noted that I offered to walk myself and let Patrick hang out in my office, but he insisted on coming. At first I thought it was because of chivalry, but then it turned out he’d misheard me and though my house was “a tenth of a mile” from the campus, rather than the “eight-tenths of a mile” it really is. At one point, he threatened that if I stopped to chat*** one more time, he’d split me like a tauntaun and crawl inside for the warmth. I’ll treasure that moment forever because, much as I like Storm Lake and my colleagues, I have no one to talk pop-culturese with.

After the walk, riding back to campus in a car with a window down was surprisingly comfortable.

Later that day, I had to rent a car (the school paid, of course) to drive to Omaha on Tuesday to return Patrick to the airport; the university had no available vehicles. So I loaded Patrick into my cool’n’breezy Scion and drove to the Ford dealership, which also rents cars at an exorbitant rate. Because the university was paying for the rental car, and because he’s not covered by university insurance, and because I’m not yet tenured, I made Patrick drive my (still broken-windowed) car back to my house, while I drove the fairly luxurious and fully-window-functioning rental car. I’m kind of a bitch that way.

Given the non-car-related success of Patrick’s visit, I’d like to invite him back in a few years. Do you think he’ll come? Will his wife let him?

By the way, my car window is still broken, although my friends Kathy and Mark did tape plastic on it for me. I have to drive 45 miles to get to the nearest Toyota dealership (I’m still on warranty). I was supposed to go yesterday, but I had a migraine. So it may give Patrick some cold comfort (get it? cold?) to know I have another week of chilly driving ahead of me.

*Writer. Father. Gamer. Game Writer. Vegetarian. Eczema Sufferer. Some Sort of Martial Arts Practitioner. Truly, the man is Some Things to Many People.

**I refuse to learn how to text message, myself. That’s step four of my 18-step program to becoming a fist-shaking, elderly grouch who yells “durn kids” and watches the “stories” on afternoon television.

***I was in a practically-a-sleeping-bag Land’s End down coat rated to -25. Not my fault he wore a measly nylon squall jacket. Obviously he didn’t respect the Iowa.


Coat tails

There has been much excitement here at Oats, malfunctioning car windows (at 20 below!), fabulous visiting speakers, driving university-owned cars into snow-filled ditches — yeah, I have a lot to blog about. But today, I also have pounding migraine, so I’m going to refer you to the fabulous visiting speaker’s blog and resume my blogging activities after some meds and nap action.

I give you Patrick Weekes, characterized by the university student newspaper as a “writer and gaming geek.”

(click on the link twice. I have no idea why the first click dumps you back at my blog. And right now, I don’t care. Did I mention I have a migraine?)

Things to do in N.W. Iowa when it’s -21 outside….

Today, the temp hovered around -1, with windchill to -21 and 25 mph winds. And here’s how we spent the day:

7 a.m.: wake up to walk the dogs before driving 45 minutes to Quaker meeting. Open back door and find excessive frost on the screen door:


Remember how painful it was to walk dogs 2 weeks ago, when wind chill was -16. Reflect that at least two Iowans have died of exposure this month, following one-car accidents. Avoid making eye-contact with dogs. Go back to bed.

9 a.m.: Get up a second time. Crank the heat up to 74 so the basement will be at least 64 when going down to shower. Shower. Dry hair, feed cats, feed bird, feed dogs. Do not say the word “walk.” Do not look at the back door. Do not make eye contact.

9:10 a.m.: If you’re a little green parrot, gobble down breakfast. You never go outside anyway, so what do you care?


10 a.m: In a fit of guilt, rearrange living room furniture so loveseat is under window and Violet can look outside.


10:30: If you’re Violet, look outside for half an hour and then go sleep on your pad in the bathroom. Do they think a comfy window seat will make you forget the complete absence of a walk?

11 a.m.: If you’re Ricky, mope because someone still hasn’t taken you for a walk.


11:15 a.m.: Go outside to prove it’s not too cold to take a walk. The sun is shining, even.


11:16 a.m.: Walk around outside. Stay in lee of garage because it really is freaking cold and windy outside.

11:20 a.m.: Come back inside. Mope some more — people control everything and could probably make the weather better if they wanted to. Everybody hates you and you hope they noticed that you did not touch your breakfast (but Violet gobbled it down after eating hers, so the drama of an untouched bowl is kind of lost).


Noon: Have lunch. Remove 4 of the licorice whips before taking the picture.


12:30 – 2:30 p.m.: Work on patchwork tote bag.


2:35 p.m.: Memorialize patchwork with digital camera. Realize two of the same patches are right next to one another. Decide not to care.


2:40 to 3:45 p.m.: Take nap on bed, with dogs. Even though they’ve been sleeping all day, they love nap time with their person. Must be some weird pack thing. Oh, and they expect a walk afterwards, as almost always happens. When getting up, don’t make eye contact.

4:00 p.m.: Check the weather. Wind chill has warmed up to -19.

4:15 p.m.: For no good reason, take picture of self with bird.


4:30 p.m.: Realize you’re bored and probably need a good walk. It’s still too cold outside.

4:45 p.m: Feed cats, bird, dogs.

4:50 -5:10 p.m.: Play indoor tennis ball chase with Ricky while simultaneously playing plush ball toss/catch with Violet. Raised heart rates and mild satisfaction ensue for all involved.

5:15 p.m.: Decide to make bean soup with cornmeal dumplings.

5:17 p.m.: Realize there aren’t enough canned beans.

5:18 p.m.: Or cornmeal.

5:20 p.m.: Make tomato soup and a toasted cheese sandwich.

5:21-5:23 p.m: Wonder why everyone in the world except for you and your immediate family calls it “grilled cheese” rather than “toasted cheese.”

5:25 p.m.: Settle down with dinner and season three of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

6 p.m.: Realize you have reading responses to grade.

6:02 p.m.: Decide not to grade them. Ask self what’s the point of being the teacher if you can’t not grade stuff? Turn up T.V. and eat some more licorice.

9:00 p.m.: check temperature and wind chill. Both are the same, zero degrees. Resolve to walk dogs in morning before school.

9:10 p.m.: Write blog entry.

9:45 p.m.: Finish blog entry. Wonder if one or two licorice whips may have escaped your notice. Wander off in search of them.


Turns out that if the citizens of an entire region like, say, northwest Iowa, are collectively sick, sick, sick of having snow on the ground and freezing temperatures for 65 days, they can subconsciously meld their dissatisfaction and desire for warmer weather into a powerful surge of atmokinesis and produce

Icy rain.

Walking the dogs this morning was like taking a samba lesson without the cute instructor. And with dogs.

Man, I’m tired of winter. Enough already!

Pretty pretty

I have not posted in a while.

School has started.

There has been snow on the ground since December 1st. 64 days of snow and mostly cloudy weather.

I have not posted in a while.

Yeah, the above pretty much covers it. I am sick, sick, sick of snow. Although at least now we are having temperatures above zero (F) — for awhile, wind chill was at -25 and the dogs, they were not getting their usual allotment of walks. There was instead much running around the house with toys, which tires me out long before it does them.

School is going fine. I teach creative writing in the spring, which is a nice pick-me-up after an autumn of all freshman composition.

Back to winter, though — and why not? Seems like it’s gonna be here forfreakingever. One thing an Iowa winter does nicely is pogonip (or, since all online sources I find say pogonip only happens in the western US, a pogonip-like substance). Pogonip, from the Shoshone/Paiute, refers to frozen fog and means, literally, “white death,” as it’s 1) easy to get lost in and 2) dangerous to breathe. It’s pretty, though, and leaves all the trees and bushes looking like this (click to embiggen):



When we get this fog on a school day, as invariably happens once or twice a semester, I tell my students that it’s called pogonip and what the word means and one or two are dorks like me who like knowing the words for things and the others clearly think I’m nuts but are willing to entertain any discussion that’s not actually about our course content. But hey, being gently nuts is practically part of the job description for college professors, especially humanities professors, and most especially writing professors, so I’ll continue to pogonip my way through our Iowa winters.

In completely unrelated prettiness, check out this gorgeous cauliflower.* At first I thought the pic had been photoshopped, but no, that’s how a romanesco cauliflower looks. Too pretty to eat, yes? Also too green and healthy, but that’s just my mid-winter, no sunshine junkfood phase talking.

Now moving from pretty to just darn cute, here’s a series of pics showing Violet playing with her beloved squeeky ball (click to embiggen):

#1 Ready to play:


#2 The catch:


#3 Retrieval successful:


#4 Do it again! (if you can take the ball from me — grrrrrowwwl):


*two words I never thought I’d use together